As Mumbai slept, rain fury kills 33, hits road, rail, air traffic

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By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, July 18 (IANS) At least 33 people were killed in different incidents as rain fury rocked Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region since midnight, hitting road, rail and air traffic for several hours, the BMC Disaster Control said here on Sunday.
As Mumbai snoozed peacefully, the skies suddenly opened up with thunder, lightning and heavy cloudburst-like rains measuring between 197 mm to over 235 mm in some areas, as per the IMD Mumbai.
The incessant downpour lasting 4-5 hours resulted in heavy waterlogging in many lowlying areas of Mumbai and MMR, besides crippling road, rail and air traffic for hours.
In the worst tragedy, a retaining wall of the BARC Complex here collapsed at Vashi Naka, New Bharat Nagar in the Chembur area around 1 a.m., crushing several homes and burying many people under the soil and rubble.
Till evening, at least 19 persons were reported dead and some more still missing with sniffer dogs deployed to trace them by the rescue teams.
In another incident, at least 10 people perished when a few hutments caved in the Suryanagar slums in Vikhroli east.
A 16-year-old boy Soham M. Thorat was killed when the wall of his home collapsed early on Sunday, while a 26-year-old youth Salim M. Patel was electrocuted in his sweetmeat shop in Andheri west, while one man drowned in a ditch in Thane.
Around another 12 persons, injured in all these incidents, have been rushed to various hospitals and are undergoing treatment, with their condition described as stable.
Maharashtra Minorities Affairs Minister Nawab Malik, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray and Leader of Opposition Pravin Darekar, senior civil and police officials rushed to these spots to supervise the rescue and relief operations.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed grief over the tragedies while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray mourned the loss of lives and announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively.
Speaking to the media, Malik said that a retaining wall of the BARC complex here collapsed due to heavy rains triggering the landslide on the small hillock which buried around a dozen hutments below, resulting in the massive tragedy.
Thackeray said that the government would extend all possible help to the victims and the injured, adding no politics should be played on the disasters.
Darekar accused the BMC of lapses and not being concerned about people’s safety, while the Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Preeti Sharma-Menon slammed the civic body for making false claims of monsoon preparedness.
Stunned locals pointed out how rescue efforts were hampered owing to heavy flooding, muck, a narrow approach road which prevented fire brigade, police and medical vans from reaching the affected spots. This forced the rescue teams to work in groups manually shifting the mound of rubble to locate the victims.
Till this evening, the BMC’s gauges recorded rainfall of 177 mm in South Mumbai, 205 mm in Eastern Suburbs and 195 mm in Western Suburbs, and the IMD has forecast heavy rains with strong winds over the next five days.
CM Thackeray ordered officials to pay special attention to hilly areas, low-lying parts prone to landslides or floods and take appropriate measure to prevent tragedies, while the BMC will work round-the-clock to monitor developments.
In many areas, people reported waist-deep water with the flood waters entering the ground floor homes or shops in the vulnerable or low-lying areas.
The downpour, which started around midnight, continued virtually non-stop with waterlogging or flooding in most parts of Mumbai, besides the coastal Konkan districts of Raigad, Thane, Palghar, parts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.
Owing to inclement weather, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport operations were suspended for nearly four hours from 12.42 am to 5.24 am, resulting in 9 flights being diverted to other locations, according to a spokesperson.
The rains hit suburban train services with WR lines flooding at Nalla Sopara and Virar, and the CR tracks getting submerged at Dadar, Sion, Kurla, Parel, Chunabhatti and Tilaknagar.
By 7 a.m. as the water levels receded from the railway tracks, the WR resumed services between Churchgate and Borivali and the CR started services on the mainline and Harbour Line.
The BMC said there were 11 incidents of house/wall crashes, waterlogging or flooding was reported in at least 31 localities across Mumbai, including the regular hotspots and the east-west subways in the western suburbs.
However, being a Sunday, the rain’s repercussions were not felt much for the commuters with most people remaining indoors but nature enthusiasts like Nitin Sunderji Shah cautiously ventured to the ravaged Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) for his morning jog.
After muddy flood waters entered the Bhandup Water Treatment Plant, the BMC announced water shortages in some parts of the city till repairs are completed and urged people to use water sparingly.
The IMD Mumbai has warned of more rains during the nex couple of days, including a few very heavy spells for which the BMC, NDRF, Police, Fire Brigade and other agencies are on high alert in Mumbai and the entire coastal Konkan region.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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